DNA Design and Science

DNA Design and Science

Most of us know that we have something called genes that determine our physical characteristics, which pass on to our children. Genes are pieces of a molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This molecule consists of two chains of alternating sugar and phosphate groups that coil around each other to form a double helix. These simple units line up in that double helix in a way that carries information much like the pages of a huge book. The DNA design carries much of the information that makes us who we are.

The complexity of the DNA molecule is astounding, and its size is even more so. If all the DNA molecules in your body were uncoiled and laid end-to-end, it would stretch from here to Pluto and back. Humans do not have the largest DNA molecules. A flowering plant native to Japan called Paris Japonica has a DNA molecule 50 times longer than human DNA. 

DNA was discovered in 1869 by Swiss Biochemist Friedrich Miescher, who called it nuclein. In the early 1940s, bacteriologist Oswald Avery discovered DNA’s connection to genetics. James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA design in 1953. 

Because the molecule is so large and complex, the opportunities to study it and make practical use of it are almost limitless. Scientists are using synthetic DNA to create vaccines. Some DNA vaccines have been successful in animals. At this time, some scientists around the world are working on COVID-19 vaccines using DNA.

Scientists are developing other uses for DNA coding. The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) is working to establish barcodes to identify plant and animal species. The use of DNA has solved many criminal investigations. Modification of DNA has given us genetically modified foods.

There are two lessons we can learn from this. First, the complexity of DNA design boggles the mind. Suggesting that it is the product of random chance seems much less likely than the idea that an intelligence designed it. That leads us to the question of whether we are playing God in some DNA experiments. We have previously talked about genetically modified babies. The extreme complexity of DNA makes it much more likely for a human error, causing harm to others. Scientists working with DNA manipulation should be guided by reverence for the Creator and the life that He created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Black Lives Matter in the Bible

Black Lives Matter in the Bible

Skeptics seem to use every crisis or injustice to make false claims about the Bible. In several recent references, skeptics have claimed that the Bible does not accept black people as human. That simply isn’t true. Black lives matter in the Bible.

The word “cush” means “black” in Hebrew, and we find it in numerous biblical passages. Most frequently, it refers to a geographical area in Africa. English Bibles often translate references to the land of Cush as Nubia or Ethiopia, and a person from there is called an Ethiopian.

Archeologists have found a wide variety of remains of the Cushite people because they were excellent soldiers and masters of horses and chariots. In 701 B.C., Tirhakah, king of Cush, defended Judah against the Syrian invasion of Sennacherib. His help and God’s hand saved Jerusalem at that time.

The denigration of black people is a modern, western activity. Ancient Greeks, Assyrians, and Egyptians did not show the racism of recent times. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that Ethiopians were the “most handsome of all men.” In Song of Solomon, there is a love song between Solomon and a Shulammite girl in which she tells Solomon not to love her just because she is black.

The Bible and the history of Israel and Judaism do not show any denigration of those with dark skin. The book of Jeremiah credits Ebed-Melech the Cushite as a hero for saving Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:7-13).

When we turn to the New Testament, we find more evidence that black lives matter in the Bible. In Acts 8:26-39, we read of the Holy Spirit sending evangelist Philip to an Ethiopian who was in charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He had come to Jerusalem to worship God and was reading the book of Isaiah as he traveled. Philip explained the gospel and baptized him.

Jesus made a point of dealing with the racial prejudice that existed at that time.
(See John 4.) Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that there were no racial, political, or gender boundaries in the early Christian churches–“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Black lives matter in the Bible just as much as every other life because we are all created in God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference Biblical Archaeology Review, winter 2020.

Benefits of Thanksgiving

Benefits of Thanksgiving

In 1863, the Civil War was in progress when Abraham Lincoln made a Thanksgiving Day proclamation asking U. S. citizens to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise.” Special days of thanksgiving had been observed in the colonies for centuries beginning with the pilgrim thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with the Wampanoag people in 1621. It wasn’t until 1941 that Congress finally designated the fourth Thursday in November as “Thanksgiving Day” thus creating a federal holiday. What are the benefits of thanksgiving, and I don’t mean just the holiday?

A person’s belief system affects how they observe and participate in the holiday. As America has become more prosperous and science and technology have made our lives more comfortable, we have bought into the idea that we are the sole controllers of what we have and what we will have in the future. “Survival of the fittest” has led to a mindset that we must be the fittest in every area of life. Some religions have adopted this mantra to justify the extermination of those who are not part of their faith. Genocide, abortion, euthanasia, racism, and abuse of all kinds are rooted in the mindset that “survival of the fittest” produces.

God has always encouraged His children to view thanksgiving as essential. In Leviticus 22:29, God told the Israelites to participate in a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Jesus Christ in Matthew 5-7. turned the notion of survival of the fittest upside down. He gave statement after statement about behaviors and beliefs that did not promote the survival of the individual but submission to and promotion of others. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul takes all of the loose talk, crudeness, and covetous behavior and says, “Instead let there be thanksgiving.”

So what are the benefits of thanksgiving? I don’t mean just the holiday but the daily and weekly way we think and act? Look at the living things all around and the stars and planets in the night sky. Look at family and friends. Look in the mirror and reflect on how blessed we are to be alive. A person who is not looking to how they can subdue someone else or get what someone else has is a person who is at peace. When Jesus calls us to live at peace with everyone, turn the other cheek, give to others, and show mercy and gratitude to others, He calls us to the real, meaningful things in life.

Nobody likes to be involved in stress, fighting, bickering, and war. As long as “survival of the fittest” is our key to living, those destructive drives will be a part of our makeup. They jeopardize our health, our relationships, and our joy at being alive.

A key to joyous living is one of the benefits of thanksgiving.
An attitude of gratitude should be a daily, hourly activity. Pause to give thanks every time you eat. Spend some time looking at your family and those around you. For the past four days, we have talked about faith in God as a foundation for our lives. With that faith, you can be thankful that God has made you a person who doesn’t have to live in fear of death and dying. Rejoice in the knowledge that this life is only a small snippet of our total existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Examine Your Faith

Examine Your Faith

For the past three days, we have looked at the role of faith in our lives. We have seen that the biblical definition of faith is the “foundation” – that on which we build our lives. We have seen that faith has a role in science, religion, and the practical day-to-day living of our lives. I have shared my journey with you, leaving my family’s atheistic faith and growing a faith in God from the scientific evidence and the Bible. I hope that you will examine your faith. Look at your foundation and how it affects the building of your life. Here are some suggestions:

#1. DEAL WITH CREATION. You have two choices about how the creation came into existence. Either it has always existed, or it had a beginning. As an atheist, I believed that matter/energy was eternal. I thought that it might go through change, but there was no beginning. The Bible clearly stated there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.

As I learned about the laws of thermodynamics, it became increasingly apparent that matter/energy could not be eternal. Now quantum mechanics and relativity have added new evidence that there was a beginning. If there was a beginning, it had to be caused. We can say that we don’t know enough to understand the cause. However, the deeper we go onto the quantum world, the more obvious it is that the creation started from a cause outside of space and time. God is a causer outside of space and time, which He created. The fact that there are purpose and design in the cosmos eliminates chance as a causer. We have a large volume of material on this subject and can make it available to you without cost.

#2. DEAL WITH WHERE YOUR FOUNDATION (YOUR FAITH) TAKES YOU. Where did my father’s faith in education take him? Did it make him happy, secure, and fulfilled? Examine your faith. Does it give you a reason to live, a purpose in existing? Does your faith allow you to deal with the problems that life brings to us all?

All of us know people who have tried to base their lives on the alternatives to faith in God. Does making a lot of money lead to a meaningful life? Does becoming a political leader bring joy, contentment, and peace? Do recreational drugs fulfill us as humans? I have had a lot of adversity in my life. My history includes having a multiply handicapped child, losing my wife to death, never having much money, and having physical problems and pain. I have struggled and wept and wondered why, but I have had a good life and have enjoyed my life. Do other foundations enable a person to deal with life’s problems?*

#3. LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Now I am at the end of my life, but that is only the end of my physical existence. My faith allows me to be confident that something better lies ahead. I have hope and peace with the fact that I will die. I see that I have had a purpose in living and my feeble existence turned out to leave the world a better place than I found it. That is because I have been able to share my faith with others and enable them to find joy in living.

Jesus makes a promise to those who choose to build their lives on faith in God. “Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and LEARN of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Don’t listen to religion or philosophy or the pleasure peddlers of our world who will give you an unproven faith that doesn’t work. Examine your faith and build it by learning and growing in your understanding of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

*To see John’s discussion of why God allows pain and suffering, go to DoesGodExist.TV and watch program 11 in the video series.

How Faith Works in Our Lives

How Faith Works in Our Lives

In the past two days, we have looked at a basic understanding of what faith is and how faith works in our lives. We saw that the Bible defines faith as the foundation on which we build our lives. We pointed out that faith is involved in science. I have been very personal in discussing my family and the destructive faith that has destructively influenced all of us. My faith is very different, and it came about differently.

One facet of faith is that we frequently share it within families. When a family member rejects the faith of the rest of the family, that creates conflict. My parents strongly emphasized education as the foundation on which to build your life. They viewed religion as irrational nonsense that enslaved and restricted humans. At every opportunity, my parents ridiculed religious faith. Hypocrisy, racism, violence, war, and waste provided a constant barrage of good reasons for them to reject faith in God. By the time I was eight years old, I regurgitated my parent’s faith and took a lead role in atheism. That is how faith works in our lives.

In junior high, I had a science teacher named Wayne Gross, who made it clear that he believed that there was academic evidence that God exists, and the Bible is true. In high school, I had a great interest and some aptitude in science. In addition to that, I became infatuated with an attractive young lady who was one of the top students in my high school class.

I did not have any moral values because my parents taught me that educated people realize that life is “survival of the fittest.” The moral guidance I received was to make sure you come out number one. I found that this attractive young lady was morally uncompromising, and she based her morality on the Bible. To get her to compromise her morality, I wanted to show her that faith in God and the Bible was educationally absurd.

I set out to prove to this girl, and to Mr. Gross, that educated people who read the Bible would not believe anything in it. Mr. Gross encouraged me to start with Genesis 1. I had stolen a Bible from a motel (there were no Bibles in my parent’s library), and I started reading it and researching the words in the original manuscripts to prove it wrong.

As I read the Bible and understood its message, looking at the scientific evidence, I started rejecting everything my parents, my peers, and the religious experts of the day told me. In doing that, I began to understand that everything I had ever been told about God and the Bible was wrong. Education was leading me to a new faith, and my parents did not handle my efforts well. They denigrated the faith of Mr. Gross, my girlfriend, and myself.

How faith works in our lives determines the direction we take. Several years later, I was faced with what to do with a child who was born blind, mentally challenged, and with both cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. This polarized my faith and my parent’s faith. My father used a parallel example of buying a car and finding it was defective. “What do you do?” he asked. “You take it back and demand a refund.”

How we handle evidence, and what we do with it becomes the foundation that impacts our lives. Tomorrow we’ll look at that a little deeper.

–John N. Clayton © 2020

To see John’s testimony of why he left atheism go to DoesGodExist.TV and watch programs 31 and 32 in the video series.

Faith or Lack of Faith in God

Faith or Lack of Faith in God

Yesterday we looked at the definition of the word “faith.” The Bible defines faith as the foundation (Greek “hupostasis”) of our lives (Hebrews 11:1). We mentioned that we all have faith in gravity. We also saw how the scientific faith that light is a wave and not a particle had to change as new evidence became available. All of us have foundations that rule our lives, and faith or lack of faith in God is one of them.

Even our understanding of what God is affects us in a variety of ways.* In the distant past, people thought of gods as physical beings that looked like humans. Roman and Greek gods were humans with superpowers of one kind or another. Some people today still view God as a human with human emotions and desires. Experiences in life can weaken or destroy that kind of faith. When someone rejects faith in God because of a tragedy in life, the root cause of that rejection is a flawed concept of what God is.

Faith or lack of faith in God can determine the foundation of our lives. The question that we must ask is, “What is the foundation (faith) on which I base my life?” For my father, who was an atheist, the foundation of his life was education. His father was a minister, and that faith did not appeal to him as a way to build his life. Instead, he pursued the highest level of education possible, achieving a Ph.D. in philosophy at Columbia University under one of the leading educators in his field. Then he became a full professor at Indiana University and was recognized as one of the top experts in his field.

After a long career with numerous awards and recognitions, my father retired. Did all of these achievements and recognitions provide a foundation for him? A regular activity for my father was to engage in a cocktail hour. He dealt with the stress and frustration of his work by drinking. My father was not socially active. He went to social affairs only because he had to, and alcohol was the foundation, the lubricant which enabled him to function socially.

Shortly after his retirement, my father developed leukemia. Going through the brutal treatments available at that time was tragic and agonizing to watch. The end of his life was a constant battle to survive, and the treatments eventually killed him. Death was the ultimate tragedy because he died without hope of anything better.

The other problem with my father’s faith was what his foundation did to and for my mother and my two brothers. My mother was forced to become the social director of the family. Social events were her life, and achieving recognition from her peers was her foundation. After my father died, she became the leader of the retirement center where she lived. She commanded the respect of everyone there, including the management and staff. This became her foundation, and her faith was that it would continue. When she suffered a stroke and was moved to the care center, she was not even allowed to eat with her peers, much less play a role in the retirement center’s social events. She was so mortified and miserable in her new situation that I had to move her 200 miles from the retirement center to a facility near me. She was miserable there as well.

My parents had a dependence on alcohol as a foundation for life and a faith that it would make everything else function normally. This rubbed off on the rest of the family. Like many people in today’s world, the negative destroyed not only my father’s faith but my mother and brother’s faith as well. Faith or lack of faith in God will determine the course of your life. In tomorrow’s discussion, we will look at how we can build a workable faith.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

*For John’s discussion on “What Is God?” go to DoesGodExist.tv and watch program 8 in the video series.

Foundational Faith in Our Lives

Foundational Faith in Our Lives

What is your faith? Some of my atheist friends will say, “I don’t have a faith,” but that isn’t true. The definition of faith given in the Bible is, “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). The Greek word used for “substance” in this verse is “hupostasis” which is from two words meaning “stand” and “upon.” It is literally our “foundation.” What is your foundational faith?

Each of us has things in our lives that are fundamental to our existence and that we trust even though we don’t see them. We all have faith in gravity. We don’t sit around worrying about whether gravity will suddenly fail and we will drift off into outer space. There is a vast list of things that we cannot see and yet which are foundational to our existence.

For most of us, our foundational faith has more to do with our intellectual understandings, our values, our morals, and how we make decisions. The book of Hebrews identifies some of those things with scientific accuracy and on which most of us can agree. Verse 3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed … so that what is seen was not made of what was visible.” Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can have faith in that part of the verse. However, the middle of that verse says, “…was formed at God’s command…” An atheist would disagree that God had anything to do with it but would still agree that “…what is seen was not made of what was visible.”

That raises an important point. Is faith something that is blind? The answer is clearly “no!!” We have faith in gravity because, for all our lives, gravity has functioned in the same way. We trust gravity and have faith in it because we have seen it working. We cannot directly see that God commanded the formation of the cosmos. Having faith in the cause of the universe requires a different kind of evidence. We cannot directly observe the creation of time, space, matter/energy, and life.

Science gives us interesting examples of faith in something we can’t directly see. For many years, scientists debated whether light was a wave or a particle. Those scientists with faith that light was a wave had evidence for their faith. They proved it by showing destructive interference in light. Two light waves can intersect and cancel each other out, leaving darkness. Waves can cancel each other, but particles cannot. Experiments also show that waves can be polarized, and particles cannot. You can shine a light through certain types of crystals, and the crystals will only allow light vibrating in one plane to pass through. Reflected light turns out to be polarized, as you know if you have a pair of Polaroid sunglasses. There was massive evidence that light is a wave, and 400 years ago, that was the faith of most scientists.

The problem with that faith was that there were things that light could do that waves could not do. Light could shine on certain materials and knock electrons out of those materials. This is called the photoelectric effect, and we all use it in photo-sensors and solar-cells. Waves such as sound waves cannot go through a vacuum because they need something to “wave.” Particles can go through a vacuum. Some scientists had such strong faith that light was a wave they explained how light reaches us from the Sun by saying that space is not a vacuum. They made up a substance they called “aether” which they said filled the universe and which waves could pass through.

Scientists today have faith in the dual nature of light. It is both a wave and a particle, and aether doesn’t exist. The point is that our faith can change when we see new evidence. What is your foundational faith, and how has it changed during the last few years? If you are a Christian, has your faith grown? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Architect-Engineer, Magician, or Chance

Architect/Engineer, Magician, or Chance

One of the things that John Clayton often emphasizes is that God is an architect-engineer. Some people see God as a magician. As John likes to say, they see God “zapping” things into existence. So which is correct— architect-engineer, magician, or chance?

If we think of God as a magician, we are rejecting science. We are like the ancients who saw magic in lightning, volcanoes, wind, fire, and everything else. They saw magic in the created things, and they worshipped the creation. So they had a god of the volcano, a god of the river, a god of the harvest, and on and on.

Science today has told us what causes volcanoes and hurricanes, so we no longer see them as gods. Science tells us how stars begin and how they die. It tells us how the elements are formed within stars. Science also tells us how our solar system developed. Plate tectonics reveals the processes that gave us today’s continents, and scientists are studying the formation of our atmosphere. We see how millions of things came together to provide us with a habitable planet. Were all of those merely fortunate accidents, or were they intelligently designed? Remember, the alternatives are architect/engineer, magician, or chance.

The greatest mystery of all is how non-living elements became life. How did those elements come together to form amino acids, proteins, RNA, DNA, and living cells? We are still far from understanding that, but it is evident that the chance of it happening without a guiding intelligence is vanishingly small.

However, once that life threshold has been crossed, the accepted faith in the science community is that evolution took over from there. The accepted science dogma today is the worship of evolution. That dogma says naturalistic evolution is the god that developed all forms of life, including ourselves. For a scientist to deny that dogma is to commit heresy. Any scientist who wants to keep his or her job, credentials, prestige, or credibility must adhere to the dogma and worship the god Evolution. It all happened by natural selection acting on random mutations, and you better believe it, or at least pretend you do.

But, is chance a viable explanation? Does our everyday experience of designed things, from shovels and lawnmowers to cars and computers, tells us anything? It should say to us that those things don’t design themselves. It should be evident that intelligence, not mere chance, was involved in all of them.

Again, the alternatives are architect-engineer, magician, or chance. If we rule out chance, that leaves us with two options. If God is a magician who “zapped” everything into existence and made it look old, the study of science becomes futile. Why would God try to fool us into thinking we can study the ancient creation processes when there is no such thing?

If God is an architect-engineer, we can study the creation and see how He worked to design and engineer the universe, our solar system, our planet, and even life. We don’t see those creations as gods. Instead, we see the God who created them, and we worship Him. The bottom line is that we see evidence of God in the things He has made (Romans 1:20).

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Good Soils Are Vital for Survival

Good Soils Are Vital for Survival

Many years ago in Alaska, I had a discussion with a biologist who was studying the Alaskan soils. His study revolved around the fact that Alaska has very little soil and what it does have is developing. The lack of soil in Alaska has limited plant growth and made the ecology dependent on migrating salmon. Soils are complex mixtures of organic matter, minerals, water, air, and billions of organisms that form over hundreds of years. Good soils are vital for survival. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.”

Research has shown that plants are designed to “call” for nutrients from the soil. A plant will release molecules called flavonoids, which cause bacteria in the soil to migrate into the plant and form nitrogen nodules on the roots. The nitrogen nodules generate food for the plant. If ample nitrogen is already available for the plant, it will not release the flavonoids.

This “hunger” by plants is vital to understand because many natural and human-caused processes can deplete the soil. Forest and brush fires, hurricanes, pollution, and climate change can deplete soils’ nitrogen content and kill plants. Studies of the giant sequoias in California have shown that the soil under them has twice as many bacteria as the soil under nearby sugar pines. We all know that bacteria influence human health, but bacteria also affect plant health and growth.

As our population increases and world climates change, it will become increasingly important to understand how soil allows us to feed our growing population. God’s design of the Earth includes providing the soils necessary to produce food. Good soils are vital for survival.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The National Science Foundation post on October 14, 2020.

Glaciers and Treasures of the Snow

Glaciers and Treasures of the Snow
Glacier National Park

In Job 38:22, God refers to “the treasures of the snow” and “the treasures of ice.” In Job’s day, that may not have made a lot of sense. Even today, most people are not aware of the role glaciers play in our lives.

We are living in what scientists call an interglacial period when changes in Earth’s orbit have caused glaciers to melt. This interglacial period has been going on for some 12,000 years and is unrelated to any human-induced climate change. When scientists find evidence of forests, other life-forms, and human remains under the ocean’s surface, we can be sure that the sea level has been very different in the past.

Water molecules are designed in a way that allows glaciers to exist. A glacier is not a block of ice. When water is frozen and put under pressure, it behaves like a fluid. When I was teaching physics, we had a demonstration in which we froze a metal container of water and then used a piston to put it under pressure. The metal container had holes, and the ice would shoot out through the holes in a cylindrical form, just as any liquid or gas would do. Snow falls on the ground in a cold place and piles up, putting pressure on the snow on the bottom. The pressure changes the snow, and it begins to flow like toothpaste. Those gorgeous blue ice flows, the treasures of the snow, are glaciers.

So why is this a good thing for you and me? First, it locks up water, so it is available year-round. The amount of land area available to humans would drop radically if we lost all the glacial ice on the planet. As the ice melts, it does so gradually. Many areas of the world have water year-round only because slow-melting glaciers supply water in a controlled manner.

Many plants and animals depend on glaciers for their survival. Glacial algae get their water by producing dark pigments, which absorb enough sunlight to melt glacial ice. In that way, plants can grow in places like Greenland. The algae provide food for fish and other marine organisms in northern latitudes. Without the glaciers to supply drinking water for the bottom of the food chain, life couldn’t exist in northern marine environments.

Glaciers are also one of the strongest erosional agents in existence. Because of that, mountainous areas have u-shaped valleys with numerous cirque lakes and moraines. Glaciers have allowed a whole biosphere to exist in those mountainous areas. Human habitation in much of the Rocky Mountains is only possible because of the work of glaciers. Here in Michigan, we see and enjoy a continental glacial area where a vast ice sheet shaped the land and created thousands of lakes.

Job could not comprehend the full meaning of the words God spoke to him. Today, people who live where the glaciers have worked and are working can be thankful for God’s design of the “treasures of the snow.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Discover Magazine December 2020, page 66.